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Wen's new priorities

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-06 07:13
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By and large, Premier Wen Jiabao's report on government work is a sensible one to get things done, a style in keeping with his and his comrades' images as pragmatic troubleshooters.

We have little doubt about high approval ratings for Wen's report, in the National People's Congress, at the parallel annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and on the street.

The Wen Cabinet has proved faithful to the promises made in its report last year. Not everything has been done well enough, as Wen himself acknowledged yesterday. But from the day-to-day operation of the central government, we are convinced that the leaders have tried hard.

This year's report is more specific than past ones on the challenges we face, as well as problems in government performance.

There are many similarities in the sections on challenges in this and last year's reports. Wen repeated the list of conundrums that pester the central government and the general public an awkwardly structured economy, a wasteful and polluting model of growth, poor public services, as well as inefficiency and corruption in government offices.

These issues' continued prominence on the government's list of priorities indicates their complexity. The limited effectiveness of last year's departmental endeavors to rein in runaway real estate prices and to offer affordable education and medical services remind us of the necessity of systematic solutions.

Structured around such challenges, the task-centered report Wen delivered was tailored to solving these major societal problems.

The vows to regulate the chaotic housing market and to "build a basic healthcare system that covers urban and rural residents" may sound too distant from the present. But they are a prescription of hope that responds to society's imperative needs. It gives us a sense of direction.

If such policies intended for mid- and long-term changes are not what the average citizen most wants, Wen's report also contained measures promising immediate benefits.

The proposal to establish State scholarships and stipends beginning the next school year in four-year colleges, as well as advanced and secondary vocational schools, is an admirable move to ensure all students entitled to higher education do not drop out of school because of economic difficulties.

The decision to offer free instruction for students at teachers' colleges is guaranteed to restore and add to the appeal of such schools. That will in turn upgrade both the popularity of teaching as a profession and the qualifications of our teachers.

With such fine ideas, what we need next is a shared political will to bring them into reality.

(China Daily 03/06/2007 page9)

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